07 May 2009

Film: "Star Trek"

Star Trek
Directed by J.J. Abrams
Based Upon "Star Trek" Created by Gene Roddenberry
Written by Roberto Orci & Alex Kurtzman
Starring: John Cho, Ben Cross, Bruce Greenwood, Simon Pegg, Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Winona Ryder, Zoe Saldana, Karl Urban, Anton Yelchin with Eric Bana and Leonard Nimoy
Date of Screening: 7 May 2009
MPAA Rating: PG-13 (For Sci-Fi Action and Violence and Brief Sexual Content)

In the 24th Century, a stellar explosion consumed Romulus and threatened to destroy the entire universe.  Ambassador Spock (Nimoy), for reasons glossed over in the film and explored more fully in the prequel comic book Star Trek Countdown, introduces a material called "red matter" to the explosion, creating a black hole to consume it.  Fine and well, except that the black hole swallowed Spock's ship as well as that of surviving Romulan Nero (Bana), and they are thrown backwards in time.

Nero is convinced that Spock, acting as an agent of the Federation, permitted the destruction of Romulus and vows vegeance.  He waits twenty five years for Spock's ship to emerge from its time travelling.  To exact his vengeance, he undertakes to force Spock to witness his destruction of Vulcan.

Concurrent with all this is the rise of James T. Kirk (Pine) from rebellious youth to officer material within the ranks of Starfleet.  Kirk is mentored by Captain Christopher Pike (Greenwood) and wastes no time making an enemy of Spock (Quinto).  They are forced to reconcile their differences in order to combat the threat of Nero.

Knowing that I dislike lengthy synopses, you can imagine my frustration at needing three paragraphs to properly establish the premise of Star Trek.  Time travel stories are always a head-scratcher, this one moreso than most.  From the outset, I questioned whether the story was necessary or would offer anything relevant to established Trek canon.  The short answer is that it is not, in fact.  And what it offers to established canon is...a complete wipeout.

In every other Trek time travel story, the conflict was resolved in some fashion that re-established proper continuity.  The U.S.S. Bounty re-emerges with 20th century humpback whales at nearly the same point in time it left proper continuity to save Earth in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home; Zefram Cochrane's attention-getting warp flight still takes place at the end of Star Trek: First Contact.  At the end of this film, though, it's all undone.

And you know what?  It's a great story.  The cast is wonderful (especially Karl Urban as young Leonard McCoy) and for the first time in a very long time, the Star Trek franchise has done something special: it has been exciting.  The production design has its own aesthetic entirely, and yet it is unquestionably Star Trek.  It's intense, it's fun...in short, everything I'd hoped it would be.

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